Everyone knows that baby teeth fall out, and it’s comforting to know that children get a set of pearly whites to practice with before their permanent teeth come in. But what happens when a child has a cavity on a baby tooth? Some would think that it would be easier to just let the tooth fall out and make sure the kid is better about brushing and flossing before the new one comes in, but it isn’t always that simple. Read on to learn why getting a filling might be the best course of action.
Is the Tooth Nearly Ready to Fall Out?
Children normally shed teeth starting at age six and ending between ten and twelve. If the tooth with a cavity is already loose or about six to twelve months away from becoming loose, it probably makes sense to skip the filling. When adult teeth are incoming, the roots of the baby tooth begin to dissolve. The dentist will use X-rays to determine the timeframe by how much is left of the root.
How Big Is the Cavity?
Most of the time when a cavity is detected, it’s already infiltrated the enamel layer and reached the underlying dentin. A cavity that deep can spread quickly, which can make a white filling necessary.
Larger cavities might require restoration with a crown. If it is even bigger than that, the pediatric dentist will recommend extraction.
Sometimes the matter is only a “pre-cavity spot.” In these cases, the enamel is wearing away, but has not been breached. This usually only requires monitoring and an improved effort in oral hygiene.
What Risks Come with a Cavity?
An untreated cavity in a baby tooth can adversely affect the child’s smile for life. Cavities are caused by a bacterial infection, and if left alone the bacteria will quickly multiply. Not only can this infection spread to other teeth, but it can eventually reach the pulp of the tooth, causing toothache and potentially leading to secondary infections in other parts of the body.
These cases may require expensive treatments like root canals or extractions. If the tooth isn’t likely to fall out soon, the dentist will recommend treating the cavity to prevent the infection from spreading by removing the decayed part of the tooth.
We all want our little ones to be healthy, and the teeth are a key part of that. The best way to avoid cavities is to teach children early to brush twice and floss at least once every day while keeping excessive sugar out of their diets. Cavities are perfectly preventable, but timely action can save a kid’s smile for life.
About the Author
Dr. Veronica Martinez earned her dental degree from the Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee before specializing in pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She leads Children’s Dental Specialty in Scottsdale, AZ, where she is fondly known as Dr. V. Her office provides services including cleanings, exams, cavity prevention, fillings, crowns, dental space maintainers, and habit-breaking appliances. If you are concerned that your child might need a filling, contact her office online or dial (480) 282-6746.